Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/646

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more or less deviation was experienced for almost every year of life, although the small scale to which the representation is necessarily confined docs not clearly indicate it. The most superficial examination, however, must convince us that we are not dealing with accidents, but with a clearly pronounced tendency in the rate of mortality, disturbed only by minor causes.

Leaving for the time life-insurance experience, for the wider field of vital statistics generally, we have to note a most important step, in the introduction of the decennial census in England in 1801, and the adoption of a system of registering deaths, births, and marriages, begun in 1836.

The data were thus collected for constructing a mortality table, embracing the whole population of England. This task was undertaken by the Assistant Registrar-General, Dr. Farr, on the census of 1841, and is known as "English Life Table No. 1." It is based on about 16,000,000 lives and 344,000 deaths. In 1863 he published a second, table called "English Life Table No. 2," using the data of the census of 1841 and extending the deaths to three years previous to and three years subsequent to 1841. This period of seven years (1838 to 1844) furnished 2,436,648 deaths. Finally, in 1864, "English Life Table No. 3" was given to the public in the form of a distinct work. It was deduced from the two censuses of 1841 and 1851, and other records for the seventeen years from 1838 to 1854, embracing some 50,000,000 persons living and 6,470,000 deaths. Here, at length, we have a life-table on the largest scale, comprising the population of a whole country from birth upward. A graphic representation of the same is herewith presented, as that conveys a clearer picture to the mind than the reading of the numbers of the living and dying for every age.

On comparing Life Table No. 3 from ten years upward with the "Ungraduated Actuaries' Experience Table No. 2," it will be observed that the direction of the curve is very similar in both; but, while the one is absolutely smooth and even, the other is disturbed by the more or less violent deviations already referred to. The process of removing these unevennesses in the line, actuaries call graduating or adjusting. It is a very delicate and most important problem, for it involves no less than the effort to determine the law of mortality, freed from the accidental influences which experience has recorded. The outline of this law is, indeed, clearly defined, and can be traced in every tableā€”a high rate of mortality in the first year of life, decreasing until the minimum is reached somewhere near the age of puberty, then rising very gradually, until with old age a very rapid increase takes place. But, while these general traits are well established, the details are subject to continual deviations.

We must assume that there is a fundamental law of life accompanying the organization of the human being, but that it is fre-